New York City police have been criticized in the past for tricking people into buying drugs and then charging them with a crime. In fact, police officers have been specifically instructed not to use certain questionable tactics that many people say are downright illegal.

However, recently released statistics showed that New York City police arrested over 50,000 people on low-level marijuana charges in 2011. Even after police were essentially told to curb their potentially illegal tactics in the so-called war on drugs, the number of arrests for the lowest kind of marijuana misdemeanor increased in 2011 from 50,400 to 50,700.

An advocacy group called the Drug Policy Alliance obtained the statistics from the New York Division of Criminal Justice and provided them to The Associated Press.

Reportedly, one out of seven cases in the city’s criminal courts involves a low-level possession of marijuana charge. And in the last 10 years, marijuana arrests have skyrocketed. The 2011 statistics show that the NYPD made over 227,000 low-level marijuana arrests in the past five years, and that number is more than the entire number of such arrests made between 1978 and 2001.

According to state law, a small amount of marijuana has to be in open view for a police officer to make a drug charge. However, NYPD officers have continued to stop and frisk people who match a suspect’s description, and sometimes those frisks result in a police officer’s finding marijuana in a person’s bag or pockets. Additionally, a police officer is not allowed to arrest a person for possession of marijuana if the officer directs the suspect to reveal the marijuana. But advocates who are critical of the war on drugs say police officers are still illegally inducing people to bring small amounts of marijuana into public view.

Residents in the New York City area should know their rights with regard to marijuana charges. Police officers must do their jobs in accordance with the law and not in a manner that aims to skirt around it. Anyone in the city who is facing drug charges would likely benefit from consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to analyze what could very possibly be a faulty arrest.

Source:, “Pot arrests top 50K in 2011 despite NYPD order,” Feb. 1, 2012